Photos from SMGA Natural Area Monitor - Spring Lake Preserve

The SMGA Natural Area Monitors hike the natural areas, report the beauty on the trail, and notify us of areas of concern, such as the ruts in the trail. See the beautiful pictures below from our Spring Lake Preserve monitor, Kurt Johnson.

Butterfly at Spring Lake

Ruts in trail at Spring Lake

Dragonfly at Spring Lake

SMGA Officer Elections and New Committee Chairs

During the first board meeting following the annual meeting, SMGA elects board officers. This year we are pleased to welcome a new president and two new committee chairs. Maggie Hutchins will serve as president. Outgoing president, Todd Derkacz, will continue to serve SMGA as vice president. Maggie has served on the board since 2007 and as a volunteer since 2005. She served as vice president in 2009, organization committee chair 2008-2009, and on all SMGA committees. Until 2006, she worked as a grant specialist for Texas Crime Stoppers, providing training and technical assistance to over 150 Texas non-profits. Charlie O'Neil, a former human resources manager for AMD, will continue to serve as treasurer, a job he's capably handled for the past year. Mary Van Zant is the new conservation committee chair. Mary is a grant specialist at the River Systems Institute at Texas State University, and has served on the SMGA board since 2008. Vicki Giere is the new outreach committee chair. Vicki has served on the SMGA board since 2009 and on the outreach committee since 2007. Vicki, a former database programmer, has been managing our membership data for the past 2 years as well as assisting in numerous other capacities including web site and orientation manual development. Julie King, the director of the San Marcos Nature Center, will continue to serve as stewardship chair. Julie provides a key connection to the city and a strong aquatics, biology, and botany background.

President - Maggie Hutchins
Vice President - Todd Derkacz
Secretary - Vicki Giere
Treasurer - Charlie O'Neil

Conservation Chair - Mary Waters
Outreach Chair - Vicki Giere
Stewardship Chair - Julie King

Article of Interest - San Marcos Council to Consider Buie Changes

From San Marcos Local News

San Marcos Council to Consider Buie Changes - By Andy Sevilla, 4/30/2010

The San Marcos City Council will take up proposed changes to the controversial Buie Tract project next Tuesday after the city's Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission gave the green light earlier this month despite much public outcry.

If the P&Z meeting is any indication of how next Tuesday's council meeting will play out, a standing-room only chamber will witness possible action on the zoning and land use modifications for the proposed project after a public hearing that is expected to be greatly in dissent . . . Read more.

G.O.T. 2B Green Day, May 22, Sponsored by Girl Scout Troop 881

San Marcos Girl Scout Troop 881

There will be something for everyone, from guided hikes, greenbelt and conservation information to refreshments and children’s activities at the First Annual G.O.T. 2B Green day at Prospect Park on May 22 from 8 a.m. to noon.

Members of local Girl Scout Troop 881 are organizing the free event with help from the City of San Marcos, the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance and other community partners as they work on their Silver Award, which is the second highest rank in girl scouting.

Through G.O.T. 2B Green, or “Get Out There To Be Green,” the scouts will increase the awareness of San Marcos greenbelt areas by encouraging and inviting members of different civic organizations to attend the event.

Activities will include a morning of guided hikes, children’s activities, educational speakers, and more. The event will begin at the Westover Baptist Church parking lot, at the corner of Bishop Street and Advance, where shuttles will be provided to Prospect Park.

Many citizens of San Marcos are not aware of the greenbelt areas and where the trailheads for the beautiful hiking trails begin, said Scout Lindsey Burton, who is in charge of publicity. “If they are not aware of this area, then how can they protect it?” she said.

Protecting the greenbelt areas is important for future generations. “What many people don’t know is that the water that flows into the San Marcos River is filtered in the aquifer below the greenbelt areas. Also, the flora in the area convert carbon dioxide into oxygen which means it help us breath a lot better and it reduces the air pollution,” said Scout Sara Jo Porterfield, who is developing the information table.

The Scouts are hoping that many local residents will attend the come-and-go event. “If we don’t take care to protect this shrinking wilderness, the quality of every day resources in this community will be polluted and we will suffer,” said Scout Hunter McMain, who is heading up the children’s activities.

Experienced local hikers are volunteering at the event. “People will be able to learn about the plants and animals that live in the green space and why it is so important that we protect them,” said Sabine Hahn, who is recruiting guides for the G.O.T. 2B Green guided hikes.

The event will be held annually, each third Saturday of May. “We are establishing a legacy of awareness and support for San Marcos green spaces by encouraging other local scouts to continue this event,” said Elora Smith, who is handling the set-up at Westover Baptist Church and the shuttle arrangements.

The event will also provide residents with information and tools to live healthier lifestyles, one of the goals of the project. “San Marcos greenbelts are free and open every day,” said Katie Obst, who is the first aide coordinator. “We want to show families fun, free things they can do to enjoy the outdoors and be healthy.”

Order T-shirts, designed by the girls, by calling (512) 757-0601 or by downloading an order form.

Feral Hogs

Park users: Please be on the look out for signs of feral hogs and let the Parks & Recreation Department know if you see tracks, wallow spots, or even the hog itself. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has an excellent and informative booklet that you can download or review on their website. Email or call Melani Howard at or 393-8400 with any sightings.

SMGA May Hikes

Boardwalk Hike With SMRF at Aquarena Springs
May 8, 9-11 am 

Celebrate American Wetlands Month and learn more about what's going on with San Marcos' local wetlands and water. Meet at Aquarena Center.

Birding Hike at Schulle Canyon Preserve
May 15, 9-11 am
Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day with fellow birders at Schulle Canyon in San Marcos.

All hikers should wear long pants, closed toe shoes, sunscreen, and bring a water bottle. Hats and camera recommended. You never know when the opportunity to snap a winning Naturescapes photograph might present itself.

SMGA on Flickr

Propect Park trail_0992

Have you checked out the SMGA flickr site recently? We're constantly updating it with new pictures of the natural areas, guided hikes, events, and more. So, when you have a couple minutes, or if you are stuck in an office and want to remember what's out there, visit

6th Annual Naturescapes Photo Contest & Exhibition

Green HeronTime to dust off those cameras and walking shoes and get outside! Our contest is open as of 4/1 to photographers of all ages and skill levels. More.

Entries Due
Monday, July 12, 2010

Naturescapes Awards Reception
San Marcos Activity Center
Saturday, Sept 11, 2010
5:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Naturescapes Exhibition
San Marcos Activity Center
Sept 11 – Nov 5, 2010

See winning Naturescapes photos on Flickr.

Follow-up to Where on the Trail is This - March 2010

Jesse Huth, a local bird expert and friend of SMGA, spoke to his friend Sallie Dellahoussaye about our Where on the Trail article for March, and this is what they think:

You are right, it is a red-shouldered hawk. It appears the head has been torn off. This would not be considered a common occurrence. However, it is possible that the bird was attacked by another predator, such as a great-horned owl. They can and will kill many things that are in their territory. Great horned owls have chicks now and can become extra protective. It is also possible that a mammalian predator got to it while it was nesting or roosting one night. A raccoon or ringtail could have done the damage, but a great horned is a more likely suspect. One would expect a mammalian predator to eat more of the hawk.

Proposed Road Above Spring Lake: CAMPO Survey NOW DUE MAY 14

While CAMPO may extend the deadline for comments, we don't want to wait. Be sure to send your comments and concerns regarding the 2035 CAMPO Transportation Plan Draft today.

Download the executive summary. Review the previously written SMGA blip on the proposed arterial through Sink Creek.

The comments survey is only two pages. On the first page, you need to check on the plans that you want to comment on. Then at the bottom of the page, add your comments. On the second page, you are asked some basic demographic questions.

Below are SMGA's concerns with the Roadway System plan:

There are several points to consider in regard to removing the proposed arterial connecting IH 35 with Ranch Road 12 from CAMPO's 2035 Transportation plan. Feel free to use the following points in your comments.
  1. The proposed arterial would conflict with the results of the Greenprint for Growth data that was recently completed for Hays County that rates the area above Spring Lake as environmentally of high value.
  2. The San Marcos River and Spring Lake would be seriously impacted, including endangered species.
  3. San Marcos is only a few months away from completing another major arterial that connects IH35 to Ranch Road 12 on the south side of the city to provide access to IH 35 for those neighborhoods.
  4. The terrain would be difficult and expensive to traverse due to recharge features and the canyon at Sink Creek.
  5. The City of San Marcos, Hays County and Texas State University have recently entered into an agreement to develop a watershed protection plan for the upper San Marcos River. This process is just beginning, let's give it some time to collect hard data and learn more about how the watershed functions.
Send in your comments today.

Community Needs Survey - Deadline April 9

The City of San Marcos has created a new community development consolidated survey to identify and prioritize community needs. The results will be used during the creation of a five year consolidated plan, a draft of which will be available for public review in July 2010. It takes about five minutes or less to complete. Issues involved in the short questions are quality of life including parks and greenspace, transportation ranging from mass transit to bike/pedestrian projects, housing, and much more. So please take a moment to complete the survey.

Coding San Marcos - Thursday & Friday

"How can a revised development code help make our Downtown Plan a reality?" Go to one of the presentations or open houses below to find out. And don't forget about the Loop & Check concept. It's a great way to connect downtown to neighborhoods, parks, the university, and transportation hubs.

Where: The Meeting Place
400 South CM Allen Parkway
San Marcos, TX 78666-6904

For more information visit

Thursday, April 8
1-6 p.m. - Studio Open House

For those who can't make any of the group meetings or would rather talk one-on-one with project team members, there are opportunities to simply drop by the studio to chat. Someone will always be available during these times to talk.

Thursday, April 8
6-7:30 p.m. – "Pin-Up" and Community Review

The team shows work in progress in an open house format and invites attendees' comments.

Friday, April 9
6-7:30 p.m. – Concluding Presentation

After testing and refining ideas on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning, the team outlines its recommendations, complete with illustrations, for a code to guide downtown development. This session concludes with public comment.

A Road Above Spring Lake? Send Your Comments to CAMPO Now!

For those of you familiar with Greenprinting it will seem odd to have to submit comments to CAMPO to avoid damaging the San Marcos River.
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's 25 Year Transportation Plan is updated every five years with a variety of transportation infrastructure improvements mapped out for the future.  It's a good idea to plan such things, and it helps bring in federal highway, airport, bi-ped and rail funding.

Meanwhile, the Greenprint planning process, as you may know, captured and mapped in detail natural and cultural elements that are of high and moderate value. The Greenprint for Hays County is a product of thousands of hours of public input and geographic study all plugged into the latest mapping technology. Among many advantages is the ability to know where not to put highway infrastructure. In fact, the Federal Highway Administration gave Envision Central Texas and the Trust for Public Lands thousands of dollars to help cover the $250,000 cost of the Greenprint process for the three counties. Their hope was that the information would be used in planning decisions. (see maps below)

So why didn't CAMPO use the Greenprint to adjust their highway plan for San Marcos?
People who study these things talk about the problem of "towering" when trying to get productive dialog between environmentalists, who everday discover hitherto unrealized consequences of humanity's clumsy progress across the countryside, and government agencies and developers, who everyday find another hurdle standing in the way of financing and constructing the roads and buildings we all use. Towering basically means that one hand does not know what the other is doing; one not talking to the other. This leads to many terrible decisions and horrible consequences that could have been avoided to the advantage of both "towers" and everyone else if only they had bothered to learn what the other has to share.

That is why we really need you to say something.
Dianne Wassenich of the River Foundation did bother to find out about the CAMPO plan, only to discover that they completely ignored the Greenprint data in relation to the San Marcos River. Their draft version of the 25 Year Transportation Plan shows an arterial roadway going directly across the area above Spring Lake and Sink Creek in order to connect IH35 to Ranch Road 12, even though the Greenprint plan shows this area to be some of the most sensitive land in Hays County. But even the Greenprint doesn't quite capture what we all know to be common sense. The area they want to plow through is brimming with sink and karst features that, depending on the recent rainfall, are either gushing water into the creek feeding Spring Lake or are taking water into the aquifer that feeds the springs of Spring Lake. And of course all of this area is the closest portion of the watershed for the river, so many pollutants off the proposed roadway and the inevitable development that will ensue would devastate the one-of-a-kind flora and fauna of Spring Lake.

What can you do? Submit a comment telling CAMPO to amend the draft before it becomes final. 
Click on the link CAMPO comment and let them know how you feel about the idea of paving over Sink Creek. You will see instructions for making a comment once you are there. You will also see a wealth of other information available about the entire plan, and you can comment on other aspects as well. Please tell them an arterial roadway that will require very expensive construction and cause irreparable damage to the river, its unique flora and fauna, and the aquifer that feeds it is a bad idea. And, let them know that their plan ignores the excellent, detailed, and collaborative work funded in part by the Federal Highway Administration. Maybe that is a tower they ought to talk to.

Here is a portion of the CAMPO map depicting the proposed arterial roadway (dotted blue line with our red arrow).  Spring Lake Preserve has been colored in green to help get a sense of location for the route.

Below is a portion of the Greenprint map with an arrow pointing to Spring Lake Preserve just above Sink Creek and Spring Lake. The red area is of high value for protection and the orange moderate.

Looking for Something to Do?

Kids Hike at Prospect Park
April 10, 10- 11:30 am, National Environmental Education Week
Join us for an easy-going walk through Prospect Park. Perfect for young children and those in strollers to get out and enjoy the park.

San Marcos River Walkers - Walk Prospect Park

April 10. Click for more information.

Nature Center Plant and Tree Sale
April 17, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
The Nature Center will have loads of native trees and plants, booths, food for sale, and crafts for kids. This is a great way to support a good cause and get some excellent plants for your gardens.

Earth Day Hike at Spring Lake Preserve

April 24, 9:00-11:00 am
Meet us in the River Systems Institute parking lot at Aquarena Center. Afterward visit the SMGA booth at the Earth Day Festival.

Annual Meeting Success

SMGA had a standing room only crowd at your latest annual meeting. We have so many people to thank for the success of this event, especially everyone in attendance. President Todd Derkacz opened the meeting with an eloquent and passionate speech about our connection with the natural world. Then each committee chair and project leader gave a summary of accomplishments and an update on new and ongoing projects. To summarize, it's been a busy year and we'll update the accomplishments on our website soon. Sally Campbell, executive director of Envision Central Texas, presented information on the Greenprint - what it is, how it works, and how to use it. And very excitingly, SMGA presented two awards to people in our community.

Each year SMGA chooses one community member who has made significant contribution toward the SMGA mission to receive the Walking Stick award. This year, we were pleased to present the award to Dianne Wassenich. Not only does she tirelessly work as the executive director, but her efforts with the county in the development of the Habitat Conservation Plan and her proposal submission to Hays County of one of the 15 properties for park bond funding has gone above and beyond supporting the SMGA mission. Thank you Dianne!

This year we started a new tradition - to recognize a volunteer of the year. This person is not a board member, but a volunteer from the membership who clearly demonstrates a dedication to our mission through volunteer hours and focus on quality work. Lance Jones, is not only a dedicated trail crew member; he also created and spearheaded the SMGA inclusion and layout in the San Marcos Activity Guide, is an outreach committee member, and is a liaison with the Hays County master naturalists. You may also recognize his name as a common contributor to the newsletter. Lance, thanks for all that you do for SMGA.